The Difference Between Forgiveness and Justification

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 4:25-5:2

What is the difference between justification and forgiveness? Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Does that mean that, since we have been forgiven, that we are justified before God? No. Forgiveness wipes out all debts, but we’re not rich. In other words forgiveness means we are free to go, but it doesn’t bring us close to God.

The definition of justification is: someone who is declared or made righteous. A helpful way to explain justification is that God looks at you and me ‘just if I’d never sinned.’ Justification is what brings us close to God.

Forgiveness in Christ means we are no longer under the punishment of death, but our hearts are still bent toward sin. Justification in Christ means we are now Children through the resurrection of Jesus, and we are being purified from sin.

Jesus has given forgiveness to everyone. He took the sins of the world on Himself (1st John 2:2) so that everyone could have the opportunity to be justified, but only those who accept His forgiveness can be justified. But if we don’t accept His forgiveness and His justification, we have denied the Son of God and are back under judgement (Hebrews 10:26).

In Matthew 22, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a King who prepares a wedding feast for His Son. Everyone was invited into the banquet but some chose not to come in, others tried to come in but weren’t wearing the right clothes (so they were kicked out), and others were wearing wedding clothes and were able to stay.

In ancient culture, the king would provide clothing for his events, in this case he would have provided wedding clothes. In this parable the wedding clothes represent Christ’s righteousness. If someone wasn’t wearing the right clothes they were either a wedding crasher or they thought their clothes were better (they worked hard to be righteous) and therefore would have been kicked out. If they were wearing the clothing provided by the King that means they would have been justified to be there (made righteous).

Justification comes from life changing faith in the resurrected Jesus. Do our lives reflect both His forgiveness and justification?

Father, thank you for sending your son to die on the cross for each of our sins. We are so grateful for your forgiveness, may your forgiveness lead us to deeper faith in you so that we can put on your righteousness and enter into your banquet. In Jesus name, Amen.

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